Already saddened by this choice, I weighed the two options in my hands with a heart heavier than them both combined. How to Pick up Guys: For the Semi-Desperate and About-To-Get-A-Cat Type of Lonely in my right and How to Pick Up Guys: For the Extra Desperate and People Who Need Wedding Dates Within a Week in my left. I stumbled upon them half an hour ago during my daily scan of the library for any romance books I haven’t already read during my lonely weekend nights and decided to give one a chance.
I don’t like cats and have no engaged friends, so the choice was daunting. But in the end, I went with the one that was four hundred pages versus four hundred and fifty. Guess when you were this bad at getting some action, there was a reason for it. So, they had to lay everything out in excruciating detail. I’m a little offended, but also thankful.
Picking the least crowded part of the library, I took my book of secret shame and plopped in a kid-sized bean bag chair in the tightest corner of the children’s section. A ten-year-old pointed at the cover and was about to laugh before I growled in a pitch inhumanely low for a woman, “Get lost before I get your mom, kid.”
He ran off crying. I’m beginning to see the unpleasant part of my personality. I flipped to the first chapter. It read: The best way to get a guy is to put yourself out there. There’s tons of fish in the sea, and some are starving enough for even the rottenest of bait.
I continued reading. It doesn’t matter where, just keep casting that line. In fact, you can do it right where you are now. In your laundry day clothes with a suspicious amount of stains but there’s a guy within ten years of your age standing over there? Go for it, girl. That’s someone’s fetish. The trick is to find that special someone. So get to fishing!
The children’s section probably wasn’t the best place to take this advice after all, so I headed down to the adult section--specifically the mystery section because I wanted a mysterious man. Standing as still as a tree, a tall man with a neck beard, fully immersed in his book, didn’t even notice me approaching. Start with a confident compliment that tells them you’re into them and that you’re down to clown… fish.
I threw myself against the bookshelf in a ‘sexy’ position, following the book’s illustration to the T, so hard it shaked it a little. An elbow up, high about my head that leaned on the shelf to ‘show off those shaved pits’--even though they weren’t shaved and I was wearing long sleeves--and crossed legs to ‘show how good your balance is--a secret sexy trait few people know about’.
The target snapped his book shut and jerked his head around, as if checking if there was an earthquake. Satisfied when the ceiling didn’t crumble in and kill him, but still not noticing me, he returned to his book when I said, “Hey there, handsome,” causing him to jump.
I cringed. Nope, can’t do this. “Nevermind,” I quickly muttered. “I’m sorry to have bothered you. Enjoy your book.”
With a beet-red face, I speed walked out of the mystery section, only to be intercepted by a short man--short by my six foot two stature that was--with a cocky grin, beautiful face, and the most gorgeous pair of green eyes I’ve ever seen. If I was a dog, my drool would hit the floor. But I’m a lady, so my drool pooled in my mouth. “That was some attempt.” He eyed the pathetic book in my hand and his grin widened. “If you ask me, a pretty lady like you doesn’t need a book like that.”
The stranger moved closer to me, pushing the book away from me. My heart pounded so fast in my chest, I thought it was going to break out and swoon in circles around him.
As my mind got light headed, the book’s advice did the backstroke across my brain. And remember, always be confident. If they actually start to flirt with you--for god knows why--flirt back. Say yes. Take the chance or you’re going to spend the rest of your life alone… alone… alone… alone… alone..
With my hands on my hips, I inhaled, puffing my chest up. “And what makes you say that?” I batted my eyelashes so much, they were sure to hit a home run.
“Because I would love to take you out on a date. Anytime.” His voice was as smooth and addicting as a good whiskey.
Oh sweet, Lord. Am I dreaming? It felt like I’m dreaming. I hoped to Lord this is real and I'm not flirting with my sleep paralysis demon. Though, if he was this good-looking, I wouldn’t mind a dinner date or two.
“How about tonight then?” I said. “At the Salty Cow Saloon? Eight o’clock.”
“It’s a date.”
With that, Mr. Perfect left my life with a joyous promise to return in eleven hours.
Oh Lord, eleven hours. I needed to shave and pluck everything. If I wasn’t as bald as an eagle before eight, I’m gonna die of shame. Clutching the book close to my chest, I dashed to the check-out. Even though I didn’t really need that book anymore, there was no way I wasn’t bringing my good luck charm on my date tonight.
As I checked out, my heart drifted on a cloud. I got a date with Mr. Perfect… meaning I was on the same level as Mr. Perfect. I hope this doesn’t go to my head.
In a navy blue dress two sizes too small, but squeezing in all the right places, I sat perched on the leather cow-print stools of the Salty Cow Saloon with crossed legs, nervously stirring my pink martini until it was a boozy hurricane, sloshing everywhere. Annoyed, the bartender cleaned up my mess and cut me off before I even drank a drop of liquor. I sighed. That was probably for the best. At least it guaranteed I wouldn’t make a drunken fool of myself with Mr. Perfect--who I still needed the name of.
It was ten minutes before eight. I’ve been here since seven, too early and too eager. After spending ten hours on my looks, I was more than presentable. I was--dare I say--looking pretty hot. At least by the gawking stares of a group of cops fresh off their shift I could say that. I turned with a huff, disgusted. The cops of Lumui were the worst and everyone in the whole country knew it. You don’t get many sentences without ‘Lumuin cops’ and ‘bribery’ separated by a few words instead of a moral code around here. I rapped my fingers on the wooden bar. To be fair to the unfair officers, they weren’t the most horrible in the government. Rather, they were the dogs licking up the leftover, dripping bribes. The small stuff.
Still, it was people like them that allowed the Midnight Butcher to roam free. Last time I checked the news, their body count was fifty-something young women. For that reason, I now carry a long, sturdy umbrella--great for whacking--and a taser I bought on the dark web that goes a few joules below lethal. I’m not looking to get murdered, just laid.
Speaking of the sexy times, my date was set to get here any minute. But apparently not before one of the dogs tried their luck with me. I flipped my artificially wavy brown hair across my shoulder. It was only natural. When I did get dolled up, I looked better than freaking Barbie.
I hunched over the bar, pretending not to notice him. He ordered a drink, sparing a glance at me before making it two. Before the bartender went to mix it, he put two and two together, and said, “She’s cut off.”
“Wouldn’t have wanted it anyway,” I remarked, slyly. Under my breath, I added, “Dog.”
The word fitted him perfectly. Along with that clown-outfit of a uniform he wore, he had an upturned nose with a black mole on the left nostril, which--if viewed in the worst lighting--can be mistaken for a snout.
With a too-gleeful smile that crinkled his eyes closed, he replied, “Asshole.” Turning to the bartender, he added, “It’s not for this rude child.” My jaw dropped. Child? “It’s for my thirsty, but lazy, friend who didn’t feel like walking up here himself.”
After he got his drinks, the asshat decided to spare me one last piece of wisdom. “Since you’re at a bar by yourself, not drinking, I’m going to assume you’re here to find someone. So a word of advice, don’t be a prick. It really turns people off.”
Where’d he get that piece of trash advice? A book that makes fishing-related puns? Awful. I’m not a prick.
Thankfully, before the dog made it all the way back to his seat, my date arrived. I shot him a gloating look that said ‘well, well, well, look who scored the biggest catch? Me, ya male-version-of-a-hoe,’ as I grabbed Mr. Perfect’s arm and leaned my head on top of his. My lips curled into a Grinch-like grin and the cop rolled his eyes.
“Hey, babe,” I said. Woah, I was really testing the waters. Not drowning--yet--I continued. “Let’s get out of here. This bar has some, unsavory individuals.”
“Okay, sure. I can whip up some dinner at my place?”
Hot and he can cook? What lucky star did I get born under to deserve this? All lovey dovey, we left the bar attached at the hip while the rude, going-home-alone-tonight cop huffed into his drink. “She’s still a bitch,” he concluded.
Too bad all that bitterness can’t get you a date, buddy.
“Here, let me carry your bag.”
Overjoyed, I handed it over to the gentlemen. “Thank you.”
Mr. Perfect’s apartment was huge and cleaner than my mouth after a dentist appointment. Slowly, I stalked across the clean wooden floor with a fuzzy white carpet, running a finger over a spotless white leather couch. Rolling up his crisp white dress shirt’s sleeves, Mr. Perfect jabbed a thumb towards a large kitchen. “I’m gonna get started on the meal. Make yourself at home.”
I threw myself on a beige armchair, collapsing into its soft embrace as I lowered my eyelids. Don’t mind if I do.
Staying on theme with my dental history and appointments, this apartment also had some blood. Not a lot because I did manage to floss once in a blue moon. Okay, fine never. Stop judging me. While it wasn’t dripping all over the place like my gums, there was enough blood here for my nose to get a whiff of the metallic scent. My nostrils flared at the rancid stench as my eyelids flew open. Maybe he was cutting some meat…
I peeked at the kitchen to see him going to town on some poor vegetables with a butcher’s knife. He moved masterfully like a skilled surgeon. Nope.
Slightly unsettled, I eased off the chair and kept my eyes peeled for the source. It smelled rotten, too. Like it had been here from a while. Maybe he cut himself a couple of days ago and forgot to clean it up properly after he bandaged the wound? Yeah, that’s it…
I crept across the floor, keeping my footsteps silent with cautious steps. Ease built a new town in my stomach and the sweat on my palms thickened as the smell got stronger. But where…
The bloody closet. Literally. A thin trail of blood flowed out from underneath the door. Having learned nothing from every horror movie ever, I decided to open the source of the unknown blood to find something horrible. Sealed in ziplock bags was a person. Or persons? The chopped up body parts were swimming in blood, so I couldn’t really tell. The blood trail came from one of the bags that had a small, pin sized hole in it.
I shuttered, closed the door, and squeezed my eyes shut, trying to pretend that didn’t just happen. Nausea rose in my throat and I dry heaved as I pawed through my purse, looking for my taser--I forgot my umbrella at the bar like an idiot. Nothing. Did he take it out when he held my bag? All that turned up was that damned library book. At a solid two inches in width, maybe it could act as a shield?
I laughed to myself, feeling the panic deteriorate my sanity. Please. The best this book could do is give me an edge at whack-a-mole. Forget defending him off, I’m just gonna bolt before he even realized I knew he was a serial killer.
“You look shocked, little lamb,” Mr. Perfect cooed, leaning against the kitchen’s door frame with arms crossed and the butcher’s knife still in his grasp.
Horny hormones bodychecked my adrenaline in my veins as I got a second glance of his sculpted forearms. No, Amy, focus. Surviving overrules sexy time--no matter how long the dry spell.
I held up my book defensively as he spoke. “And here I was going to give you a nice meal before I turned you into one.”
As much as I know I looked like a snack, this wasn’t what I wanted.
Slowly, I back towards the door.
“Now where do you think you’re going, little lamb? Don’t play hard to get. I don’t want the goods to get damaged ‘corralling’ you.”
“Listen here, Mary,” I barked, having almost no bite to back it up. Lord, I still didn’t know his name, did I? “I ain’t on nobody’s meal list tonight.”
He stepped forward. “I’m not a nobody. I’m the Midnight Butcher.”
Wow, I really hit the jackpot, winding up on a date with the most infamous serial killer in the country. At least my death will make national news. That’s the brightest hope I have for a fifteen minutes of fame anyway.
My pulse quickened. Unless… unless I survived. Then, it’d probably be a lot more than fifteen minutes…
“Don’t be too quick, Jill. You don’t want to take a tumble down this hill--” Mr. Not-So-Perfect lunged at me, knife first.
Geez. This guy could not keep his fairy tales straight. Doesn’t he know that Jack was the one to fall first?
I chucked the book at his head. He side-stepped away from me, giving me enough time to dive, curling my fingers around the carpet. I gave it a swift yank.
‘Jack’ tumbled, slamming his head on his coffee table on the way down. He groaned, still conscious, but obviously in throbbing pain.
Breathing hard, I bolted to the front door, undoing the several locks I didn’t even notice he had before booking it out the apartment to the street below.
Out of breath and shape, I stopped to wheeze and curse at myself.
Stomping around the sidewalk, I screamed internally. A serial killer? This guy was worse than my sleep paralysis demon. Lord, how could I be so stupid? I should have known something was wrong. A super perfect guy like that going out with me? Pfft please. What am I? Some self-insert plain jane in a crappy romance novel? No way! The author doesn't go for that kind of crap.
But nooooooo, I had to let it go to my head. I had to… see the same dog cop from the fake-out ask-out five feet from me, staring at my disheveled self with wild eyes, wind-whipped hair, and make up that ran faster from my sweat than I did from a serial killer.
Mouth ajar, he paused, then took out his phone, snapping a picture.
“Hey!” I hollered.
Before I ripped him a new one, I hesitated. Cop. Serial killer. Cop. Serial killer. Cop. Gun. This could work. “I need your help.”
He snorted. “Why should I help you? Besides, don’t you hate cops like everyone else?”
“Yes, but right now I need a guy with a gun. And you fit that description perfectly.”
He rolled his eyes. “Lucky me.”
Back in the apartment, the Midnight Butcher, painfully rolled onto his stomach, eying the book a couple inches from his head. He smirked. “You always bring me the best girls, don’t ya? Ah well, I haven’t had a chase in so long. Things are getting interesting.”